Here's at least a little bit of good news for the Pens' blue line - Sergei Gonchar is back at practice. Actually, he's not practicing per se but he is skating again with strength and conditioning coaches. Having not skated since October, Gonch definitely needs to get his skates back under him again. Reportedly there is no return date set, but it would seem the recovery is getting off on the right skate.
While we're on the subject of defense, perhaps we can discuss Ryan Whitney and his lack of production since returning over a week ago. His one assist of five games isn't exactly what I, or the Penguins I'm sure, had in mind when he returned. Granted there was a ton of hype surrounding his return as the temporary relief for the power play, but a professional athlete should be able to dismiss the hype and focus on his play.
But I'm not seeing it.
Whit is a -3 since returning and has spent only four minutes in the box. Yet even one of those penalties nearly proved critical in the Penguins' 1-0 win over the Devils on December 26 when he was tagged for two in the last minute of play for trying to work with a broken stick.
I'll allow some room for improvement. I didn't exactly think he'd fly off the bench and start scoring on every shot. But ya know what? A goal or two would be nice. Let's make it happen.
If not I'm afraid to say there's a good chance Whitney may pose as trade bait during the deadline. Tribune-Review writer Rob Rossi mentioned in his December 11 radio interview with Hockey Night in Canada that he feels Whitney may pose as the bait for a goal-scoring winger.
At this rate I'm not opposed to the idea...